Here's a story to cause more than a little concern to insurers, regulators and the contingency planing industry generally. According to new research carried out on behalf of BT Global Services, n times of crisis, law firms rely more on the strong resilient actions of their staff, rather than a detailed business continuity plan. The research, say BT, suggests that bosses are counting on team spirit to save their businesses in a time of crisis rather than putting proper measures in place and communicating them to all staff members. 67% of staff surveyed in the sector believe their organisation relies on the dedication of its staff rather than detailed plans to get them through a disaster. Nearly one quarter (22%) did not know whether their firm had a business continuity plan and a further 47% said they didn’t understand it or had not taken the time to read it.

The study, of 752 employees across a range of professions, did reveal a high degree of loyalty and resilience, with those in the legal profession among the most determined to soldier on. Rather than seeing events such as bird flu, flooding or IT failure as a chance to enjoy time off, 83% said they would want to return to work as soon as possible if their organisation was adversely affected, higher than the average across other sectors (77%). The study also found that 95% of professional services workers would do everything they could to help colleagues in a time of crisis.

Ragnar Lofstedt, Professor of Risk Management, King's College London, who worked with BT on the study, said: “The spirit of resilience is clearly alive and well, showing that employees of UK firms are prepared to battle on in adversity. However I am concerned that, positive though this resilient streak is, it is actually exacerbating the problem by making employees blasé to the threats that exist in the post 9/11 world. Corporations understand the threats, but they need to communicate them better to their staff. The fact that so many either cannot be bothered or cannot comprehend their business continuity plans is seriously worrying. Organisations must realise that this resilient spirit is not enough and ensure that all the checks and fail safes of risk management are firmly in place.”

 The top three potential risks or disasters that legal professionals worry about were major technology failure (37%), hacking attack or computer virus (30%) and a major incident leading to a loss of data (29%), emphasising that the security of information is of critical importance to law firms. But the research also revealed that staff can easily be responsible for security breaches. Nearly one in 10 (9%) admit to having lost a device (such as a laptop or memory stick) that contained sensitive business information.